A few months ago, Agnes and Vera in Sturminster Newton agreed to take copies of my Dorset Chronicles series. They leaped ahead of more regular bookshops in sales volume and I am delighted now that they have asked me to do a book signing on November 1st between 5pm and 7pm.
This is no simple book signing, however, It is set amidst a general display of the marvellous gifts that Agnes and Vera have on sale and they invite you to visit them at a special opening for the evening of Friday November 1st.
It gets even better than that, however. For they are taking over the coffee shop next door – Joshua’s – for the occasion and I will be doing my book signing in the gentle yet fun environment that Joshua’s offers.
What could be better for a Friday evening than late night shopping, coffee and the chance to look over the latest books in the Dorset Chronicles series – the drama and history surrounding the forging of our modern nation. These books are set in and around our ancient and beautiful town of Sturminster Newton.
I really hope you will make it and join me there for a fun evening with beautiful gifts (including my books!) and excellent coffee!
For more information see https://www.agnesandvera.com
See you there!!
1st Book in Chris Oswald’s series, ‘The Dorset Chronicles’
“is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”
“You don’t deny you wielded the axe, severing his head from his body?”
“Was the victim known to you?”
“I am the victim.”
“Was the other party known to you?”
“Not until the night of the incident.”
“Yet you share the same surname.”
“It is a common enough name.”
“I understand you are a stranger in these parts?”
“My parents moved away. I returned the day of the incident.”
“I inherited the house, I wanted to see it before selling it.”
“You found the victim there and sought to enjoy yourself at his expense.”
“Yet he lies now in the morgue with no head. No further questions.”
My court-appointed counsel rose, the other end of a seesaw as the prosecutor sat down. He smiled a weak smile; the smile of someone who will not push himself.
“You say you are the victim? Please explain to the jury.” He looked at the twelve as if a beggar seeking coin. This is the tale I told.
My parents left because their house was haunted. They would not speak of it. The house was empty for fifty years. The man was waiting for me, coming to the door just after I arrived. He was my great-great-grandfather, he explained, and he had roamed the garden for a hundred years, unable to enter the house. Long ago, when he was young, newly married and the happiest person on earth, he came home early one day and found his bride, my great-great grandmother, in bed with his best friend. They fought and the friend was killed when my great-great grandfather struck him with an axe. He was hung for this crime. But he told me he could not rest these hundred years. His wife had cursed him as her lover was beheaded.
“You will never rest until your head is likewise severed,” she had cried.
I asked my great-great-grandfather into the house but he could not enter. Instead, he pleaded for release from the curse, begging me to strike off his head. I spent hours remonstrating while he pleaded. He passed me the axe. Finally, I raised it and struck his head clean off. I remember his smile of relief as the head toppled to the ground.
“Can you explain why, if he passed you the axe, the only fingerprints on it were yours?” It was a good point. But I had the answer.
“Ghosts do not leave fingerprints. They are not of this world.”
“Foreman of the jury please stand.” The judge looked tired, like he wanted a pot of tea and a bun. “Have you reached a unanimous verdict?”
“Have you reached a majority verdict?”
“Yes but only by seven votes to five.”
“How do you find the defendant?”
The judge placed a black cap on his white powdered wig, turned to me and pronounced sentence.
This book is in final proofread and will be released on Thursday 16th August.
It is Book 3 of the Dorset Chronicles. The first two books, A New Lease on Freedom and It Takes a Rogue, dealt very much with historical fiction in my region of the world – Dorset. They had scenes elsewhere, for instance Bristol, London, Holland.
A Simple Mistake is a little different. Over half of it still relates to events in Dorset with near disasters and dangers looming for our small group of protagonists. But the history of 1689 really demanded another dimension for that year, and 1690, is all about Ireland. James Stuart, the deposed/ abdicated king (depending on your point of view!) landed at the bottom of Ireland in March 1689 and took most of the country pretty quickly.
I say most because Ulster held out and, within Ulster, Londonderry in particular. This is a fascinating time. The city was Derry until Elizabeth I sent planters over to settle the land. Londonderry, to me, means a younger cousin to London, or perhaps a child of the English capital. The siege of Londonderry was a momentous affair and Bridget Browne, a descendant of the planters a century earlier, lived through it in my imagination, just as I would have loved to experience it. Not the hunger, the fear, the bombardment – I’m far too much of a coward and creature of comfort to enjoy such conditions – but the fellowship both of determination and pride and the excitement of holding out!
This was war and very few wars have a clear cut right on one side or another. Some do, for instance nobody could seriously argue that the Second World War was not a just war, wit the allies standing up to the evil of fascism. But the war in Ireland in 1689-90 was not one of the few. Both sides had right and both sides had wrong. Young Bridget Browne could expect to live a life without being invaded, yet she, as an intelligent woman, could see that her types had literally been “planted” upon the native Irish. She concludes that the war she experienced was not so much about Catholics against Protestants, just as perhaps many of our modern day struggles suggest Muslims against Christians. Her conclusion was that it was greed, fear and ambition behind the cruelty she witnessed.
A chunk of the middle of the book is in Ireland, dealing both with the siege of Londonderry and with fictitious adventure surrounding this period. After all, Matthew and Thomas Davenport have to have reasons to go to Ireland.
But if you like the Dorset connection, do not fret! The story returns to Dorset where there is a momentous attempt to unseat the natural order of things in the north of the county, leaving the residents reeling from bankruptcy, intrigue and disaster. And here again, the prime motivations behind Parchman and his crew are jealousy, ambition and hatred. To find out whether they succeed, you will just have to buy the book! Out on 16th August so make it a date in your diaries, settle back and enjoy the latest instalment of the Dorset Chronicles.
Here’s the back cover write up to A Simple Mistake, book 3 in the Dorset Chronicles, Historical Fiction set when our modern nation was forged:
Anyone can make a mistake…
Believing himself spurned by the woman he loves, Thomas Davenport leaves Dorset, intent just to get away. He ends up in Ireland, at the height of the 1689 James Stuart invasion. He meets Tristan Browne, an Irishman born in Barbados, coming home to a land in uproar.
The Siege of Londonderry, like so much in the Seventeenth Century, puts countryman against countryman in a bitter war of attrition, starvation and resilience. Bridget Browne is caught up in it and writes a startling account, full of insight.
Unknown to Thomas, his brother Matthew is also in Ireland, wishing only to be on the pulpit in his native Dorset, but his sense of duty prevails.
Thrown together by fate, the four must flee Ireland when Matthew uncovers a corrupt scheme, the work of old adversary Parchman, who is also wreaking havoc back home in Dorset.
Can Great Little and Bagber Manor survive as we have come to know them, or will Parchman succeed and see his foes out on the streets, beggar bowl in hand?
As we move relentlessly towards the modern age, our heroes and villains have their own struggles, which build into the drama of an extraordinary nation in the making.
hi, here are the opening 700 words of A Simple Mistake, book three in the Dorset Chronicles series:
It was a simple mistake to make. He had thought it
Wednesday when it was only Tuesday.
But it had enormous consequences.
Thomas went to Bagber Manor, as he did every Wednesday
and Sunday, for church. He went the normal way; across the
bridge he had helped to build and which had been his
introduction to the building profession. He always crossed it
with a mixture of pleasure and pride. Then along the southern
bank for a few hundred yards, right at the mill, and up the track
that followed the Stour to the Divelish. He crossed this
tributary where the road dipped under the water and went
across the fields to the trees, following the Divelish all the way.
He had seen that stream in every mode from raging torrent to
sleepy trickle but that day it was somewhere in between, with
lazy loops of water in slow but constant motion, as if searching
for their essence or their character; for how they would be that
He knew every inch of the route for he was a frequent visitor,
especially now that he was walking out with Amelia Taylor.
He thought of her long and often, wondering what she was
doing that moment and how she would react to a particular
topic running through his mind. He saw things through her
eyes, knew she did the same. It was as if they were an elderly
couple celebrating a life spent in each other’s company.
Sometimes, like today, he held conversations with her as he
walked. Mostly, these were confined to his head but that
evening he spoke out loud, as befitted the glorious April day
with new growth everywhere; plants stacking up to blossom in
a few short weeks.
He stopped abruptly when she answered his chatter. It was
her voice, for certain, although the words were muffled. It came
from the trees ahead, just where the stream bent to the south
and a large flat stone made a natural point to sit and dangle feet
into the water below. Her voice was as well-known to him as
his own breathing patterns. He made to talk, then stopped
again; she was not answering him but another and her voice
was light and playful. Then he heard her words, as if delayed
by lingering a while in the new leaves on the oak and ash and
blackthorn above and around:
Let me scratch your back if it itches so, my dear.
The words sent a shaft into his heart.
He edged forwards to the rock ledge, obscured from view by
a bank of early nettles and brambles. It prevented sight of her
but also hid his proximity. He listened again to her beautiful
laughter. She was teasing someone, giggling quietly as if acting
in a private play. Incensed, he strode forwards, remembering
afterwards the young nettles attacking his skin with their
“Mealy, what brings you…” He never finished his sentence,
instead backed away, for she was almost naked; just a loose and
soaking-wet undergarment from bosom to knees but riding up
at the side so that her left thigh was half visible. His eyes rested
on that thigh and, for a moment that went on and on, he could
not look away. Yet his brain was working on the outrage, the
deceit. And it worked on its own schedule, to its own tempo.
Amelia looked up, blushed deep red and grasped for an item
of clothing, anything within reach. She held a dress upside
down so that the skirt covered her breast and shoulders and the
top made partial cover only for her legs. He could still see her
thigh although his vision was watery, as if he had dipped his
eyes in the same Divelish she had patently been in. But his
wetness sprung from tears and those tears were of anger, with
a dash of wonder at what he had seen.
“Thomas!” she cried, standing up and backing away. “Cover
your eyes.” He covered his eyes, backed away, not wanting to
see what he had next seen.
For lying next to Amelia, similar in attire, was his sister,
Amelia had offered to scratch Elizabeth’s half-bare back.
And, presumably, would be scratched in turn herself.